Deborah Nadoolman Landis has worked as a costume designer on more than 20 films over the last 40 years. Along the way, she has created several looks that have crossed into popular culture and become fashion trends. Here are a few anecdotes, in her own words.
ANIMAL HOUSE (1978)
Back in the 1970s, there were T-shirt shops where you could have all different [images] pressed on. I thought it was funny to put "College" on the front of Bluto's sweat shirt. I had no idea that it would become so iconic, that I would be taking my son to college at the University of Miami years later, and they would be for sale in the shop. I love to laugh, which is why I married John [Landis]. I hope his comedies are overdesigned and that I made a lot of sight gags. It was a huge party atmosphere on that set, but neither one of us were partiers, drug takers or drinkers. We had to make do with a contact high.
BLUES BROTHERS (1980)
When John [Belushi] and Danny [Ackroyd] established Jake and Elwood Blues on "Saturday Night Live," they just wore any old black jacket, white shirt, tie, hat and sunglasses. They never thought of themselves as a pair, but I always saw them as the new Laurel & Hardy. I had their hats made at Dobbs, and I asked them to try on Wayfarer sunglasses. They fell in love with them. I also made their suits I didn't want them to appear slovenly or dirty, so they always looked good, even through the car crashes. I wanted Danny to look more vertical, like Stan Laurel, so he wore a three-button suit. I wanted John to look more horizontal, so two-button. It was all carefully constructed, even the width and brim of the hats.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
Tom Selleck was meant to be Indiana Jones. Steven [Spielberg] and George [Lucas] had the idea for that costume. The archetype had existed before, in the 1940s adventure serials. I asked Steven to draw a picture for me, and it was the most charming drawing you've ever seen.I made the first prototype for Selleck, but he couldn't get out of "Magnum P.I.," so he dropped out of the movie and Harrison Ford was cast. So much about Indiana Jones ended up being taken from Harrison's personality, the fact that he's an intellectual and loves art. Who knows how it would have been with Tom Selleck? We designed a big action pleat in his jacket so he could use the whip.
The jacket was red because I had spoken to the production designer, the director and Michael and knew it was going to be a huge dance scene with ghouls. I thought about what would make Michael pop against the ragged figures and dust. There are a few of them still around. One is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (1977)
Bong Soo Han starred in the Bruce Lee sketch. His biographer contacted me recently because, apparently, Han's favorite photo ever taken was in my costume from that film. I remember I had to have a dragon embroidered down the front of his robe. That film was fun to design because it was like a variety show.
COMING TO AMERICA (1988)
It's been [almost] 30 years since I did that film, and still every year I get emails asking if I can work with a bride to make that pink wedding dress. Pink wedding dresses have become fashionable now, but why pink then? In a room full of beautiful African American people, I could have put her in a white dress with a 20-foot train, but all you would have seen is that dress. I thought about ivory or ecru, but it didn't look right with her skin tone. Finally, I thought pink, it looks a little Barbie. And my original brief from John was "African Cinderella story."